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Comment Re:Climate skeptics caught manipulating temp data (Score 1) 1011

That's a rather loaded way to look at this controversy. The skeptics pointed out that the overall the raw data was flat and only showed warming after adjustments. The believers responded that all the adjustments were reasonable and produced their rationale for the adjustments to the Wellington series as an example.

Both of these positions can be true, or may be spin. Without knowing the basis of all the adjustments (not just those at one station) can we be sure which is which. That said, it's not an insignificant issue if a trend is only apparent in the data after adjustments are made because those adjustments are often just educated guesses which introduces a larger margin for error and the possibility that subtle biases affect which way and how far that educated guess goes.

In their explanation of the adjustments to Wellington they used the differential between the Airport and Kelburn to calculate the differential between Thorndon and Kelburn because they are at the same elevation. But is it really likely that elevation is the *only* factor causing the temperature difference between Kelburn and the Airport? The bits of Kelburn above 125 meters look like relatively leafy hillside suburb of Wellington, while the Airport is a pretty vast expanse of concrete. Is it really a good proxy for the Thorndon waterfront of the 1930's just on the basis that they're at the same elevation? What if we decided to make a cooling adjustment over time to account for the increasing heat-island effects of increasing urbanization?

Comment Re:Oh, hey, (Score 1) 1011

NIWA explanation for what is going on for the temperature adjustments.

For a single station out of many that were adjusted. I suspect they picked one of the most reasonable adjustments out of the many that were made to present their strongest case.

But even the adjustments for this single station are at least a little problematic. There's no overlapping data between Thorndon and Kelborn so the adjustment is a guess. They took the newest station at the airport for which they have overlapping data with the old station at Kelborn (so that adjustment is not a guess) and applied the same differential to Thorndon because it was at the same elevation. Not a bad basis for a guess, but is it likely that elevation is the only variable between a modern airport and the Thorndon of 100 years ago? Is this one station really representative of all the other stations that have been adjusted? (was there a mid-century trend to move weather stations to higher elevations?)

Heat-island effects will generally be getting worse over time as suburbs and urban centers grow up around weather stations. When this is brought up as a reason for skepticism we're informed that this is a known problem and that the raw data is being adjusted for such affects. Instead when we compare the raw data to the adjusted data we're seeing a general upward adjustment rather than the generally downward one you'd expect because of the increasing heat-island effects. When asked why the trend is generally upward data for a single station which saw an altitude change is trotted out as a justification. Tellingly while adjustments for changes in elevation were made as this station moved around there were no adjustments for the fact that the city is significantly larger than 100 years ago and that the newest station is sitting amidst acres of paved runway.

Let me be clear that I don't think there's any kind of conspiracy. But I do suspect there's a subtle bias towards warming adjustments and away from equally necessary cooling adjustments. Because scientists now expect to see a warming trend if one doesn't show up in their data they're more likely to look for reasons why it didn't and account for them ("Hmm... that's funny this station data exhibits no warming trend. Ahh I see... the elevation changed in the 1920's") while similar factors causing an artificial warming trend in the data are less likely to be accounted for because the data looks like what is expected ("The warming trend for this station is in line with the global trend, I think we can safely assume there's no significant heat island effect in this case").


Programmable Quantum Computer Created 132

An anonymous reader writes "A team at NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) used berylium ions, lasers and electrodes to develop a quantum system that performed 160 randomly chosen routines. Other quantum systems to date have only been able to perform single, prescribed tasks. Other researchers say the system could be scaled up. 'The researchers ran each program 900 times. On average, the quantum computer operated accurately 79 percent of the time, the team reported in their paper.'"

Comment Re:Tax 'em! (Score 1) 532

I'm curious, is your online store already collecting taxes for all 50 states? If yes is it a burden dealing with 50 different sets of tax regulations and agencies? If no would you bother with your online store if having it required you to? Aside from just knowing the base sales tax rate for each of those states would you know which items aren't subject to sales taxes in some states? Or which items in which states are subject to an additional luxury tax on top of the base rate? How about municipal sales taxes charged by various cities around the country, should online retailers by responsible for collecting those too? I would think only the very largest companies would have the resources to deal with that much regulatory and compliance overhead.

Comment Re:Ummm (Score 1) 541

Well true it's not about us, I don't think anyone is ultimately arguing with that. What they ARE arguing about is about what our response should be... which *is* about us and is worth talking and even arguing about.

Unless we're going to start following a Buchannanite isolationist foreign policy the statement "It's not about us" isn't an argument. The fact is we *do* favor one side of this dispute over the other for both altruistic and selfish national interest reasons. The proper response may be to say and do little so as to avoid becoming foils to the hard-liner's accusations & because previous policies have left us too toxic to audibly support those we actually favor without doing them more harm than good. That's a worthwhile argument, but it's a tactical argument incompatible with the reasoning that "it's not about us".

It will be interesting to see how many of those previously advocating that the USA do and say nothing will be consistent and criticize the President now that he has started to come out with more forceful statements condemning the regime. (Forceful enough to win some grudging approval from those pundits most critical of his earlier muted statements.) Will their opposite number stick to their "no meddling" convictions or where they hacks?

Comment Re:It takes a special breed of idiot (Score 1) 562

to call humanity's second greatest invention since Mathematics(*) itself useless.

At what point did he say the internal combustion engine was useless?

We're talking about a technology that allows Joe Average in the US to send a message to Juan Promedio in Spain in less time it took you to read this paragraph...

Oh, you mean the telegraph! or... errr... the telephone? the wireless?

The personal computer and the internet are really great but calling them humanity's 1st and 2nd greatest invention of all time is shortsighted. It's more like: "two greatest inventions that have happened recently enough for me to have personally experienced their impact on society so I think they're better than all those other revolutionary inventions I'm taking for granted".

I recently ran across a set of family stories my grandmother compiled about her childhood as well as those of my grandfather and his siblings... and I concluded that the tropes about us living in an age of unparalleled, ever faster technological advancement simply aren't true, at least not any longer. My Grandfather experienced more, and more significant, technological advances in his life than I have in mine: He was born in 1908. A third of the population (including his family) were farmers, the typical home had no electricity, no phone, no indoor plumbing, no refrigeration (His father, my great grandfather owned a dairy farm, their refrigeration was a spring house, and during transportation a cloth in the wagon over the dairy products to keep them out of the sun). Most if not all appliances and tools used in his home and farm were powered by human or animal muscle. Transportation was by horse or over long distances by locomotive... There were almost no cars, model "T" production began that same year. His lifestyle growing up was very, very different from what we are familiar with today. The year he was born the Wright brothers were conducting demonstration flights in Paris to convince the governments of Europe that heavier than air flight was in fact a reality and might even have practical application. In contrast by the time he was 50 (1958) his life was not significantly different from my own, he lived in a raised ranch in the suburbs (a type of place that didn't exist in his childhood). He commuted to work at an office using a car kept in the garage. His home had electricity, indoor plumbing, phone service, radio and TV and every appliance except a computer that we would expect in a home today. He wasn't part of the "jet set" so the price would be out of his means, but in theory he could have flown via commercial jet when he went on vacation. The 50 years since then (1958-1998) hasn't seen nearly as many revolutionary technological advances, mostly just a lot of evolutionary advances to the technologies my grandfather already enjoyed by '58 . The personal computer and the internet are the big revolutionary advances since then but even those two biggies don't don't yet hold a candle to the impact the automobile had on individuals or society at large.

Comment Re:The problem with politicians (Score 1) 258

Somehow I find it hard to believe that the majority consistently wants bigger, more expensive, more powerful government, year after year after year. That the majority consistently wants to give up basic human rights like self-ownership. And that the majority has believed in continuously expanding the powers and revenue of government, nearly exponentially in fact, for the past two centuries.

Sadly this is in fact exactly what the majority consistently wants as long as that bigger, more expensive and powerful government is showering them with benefits. Self-gratification is usually more popular than self-ownership, especially if it's someone else's self-ownership that's being sacrificed. People tend to act in their self interest: politicians are people too and acting in their self interest means securing and expanding their position and power, so they promise goodies to the majority to earn their vote. The majority will also act in their self-interest and vote for the politician promising them the goodies. Now, you and I think the majority are being short-sighted about the "deal" they're getting. There are costs associated with it that weren't stated by the politicians and the voters haven't read the fine-print of the contract. In the end the majority has been fooled into thinking something was in their self-interest when a fuller understanding of the nature of the bargain and how it'll play out in the long run would reveal that it wasn't.

It isn't entirely hopeless, there are moments in time when the internal inconsistencies surface and the majority becomes aware that politicians promising them something for nothing are likely to be lying, there's a reaction, a momentary slowdown, sometimes even a marginal reduction of government power... but over the long haul it'll continue the slow ratcheting movement down the path of greater and more centralized power exerted more aggressively over more of our lives.

Comment Re:Of course... (Score 1) 379

Less than 100 billion of the money is being paid directly to home owners who are in danger of losing their homes. The rest are going to corporations who made a lot of stupid bets that fell apart. This is to protect the 10% of Americans who own the vast majority of stocks from losing all of their paper wealth that is now mostly worthless.

It remains that that $100 billion is not what is provoking the outrage and the fears of galloping (as opposed to the normally creeping) socialism/corporatism (a distinction with little difference). It's the bailout and the stimulus as a whole, a massive increase in the size and cost of government and a massive increase in it's role in the economy.

Corporatism is nothing new here. Socialized risk for private profit has been the model for many, many years.

I should probably make a distinction between the two different definitions of "corporatism." I'm not referring to the recent popular usage as "government by corporations" but rather to the older formal definition. Corporatism is a quasi-socialist system where government heavily regulates and manages each industry (setting wages, prices, industry standards, etc.) via the intermediary of the confusingly named "corporations". "Corporations" not meaning business corporations but government councils that regulate each industry and consists of representatives from government, management and labor. So essentially "government by stakeholders" or at least "industrial policy by stakeholders". Of course the two definitions need not be in conflict, the practical result of formal Corporatism may be essentially the popular version with a thick layer of government bureaucracy and the merging of government apparatchiks with captains of industry (think Franklin Raines). As with any system of excessive government control one of the results will be inordinate benefits to those that are politically connected, or as you put it "socialized risk for private profit".

Comment Re:Of course... (Score 1) 379

America's a wacky place. Spending less than 100 billion saving people who were dumb with mortgages is cause for Panic! Hyperbole about Socialism! Quick, throw a tea party! Fox News anchors weeping on air for their fallen values system!

Oh, come on. You know a mere $100 billion isn't the cause of anyone panicking or any hyperbole about socialism. Where do you even get such a paltry number from? $12.2 trillion is the cause for panic and "hyperbole" about Socialism. That is of course is just the bailout commitments, the stimulus is another $789 billion, which is "too small" and will require a larger sequel. All of this is only the projections right now, like the wars which were initially projected to cost far less than they ended up costing the real costs will be higher than current optimistic government projections.

Of course it's not only the money spent but the fact that the government now either directly owns or is seeking to own several very large businesses and is effectively running quite a few more that it doesn't (yet) own outright: making personnel and compensation decisions. Deciding which (politically connected) creditors will get paid back and which (politically unpopular) creditors won't. You may be right that this doesn't amount to socialism, the correct term is probably corporatism, which you may not have a problem with but a lot of people find very troubling.

We've already spent more ($2.5 trillion according to the NY Times linked above) "saving people who were dumb with mortgages" in less than a year than the total spent in over five years of the Iraq war.

I'll agree with you though that America is a wacky place.

Comment Re:Simple answer (Score 1) 1322

The thing that scares me about vouchers is that I don't think it would take too long before there would be regulations deciding what a school must provide in order to be voucher worthy (or tax credit worthy) from that it's not too much to assume that those regulations would be more and more onerous.

Well, my point is there are already regulations deciding what a school must provide in order to be considered "school" (licensed, accredited, etc.) and those regulations are already slowly becoming more and more onerous as the laws slowly accumulate. In my state there are regulations concerning record keeping, length of the school day & year, and curriculum(!). There's even a regulation that requires approval of the private school's curriculum by the local school board which the law says must be "substantially equal to" that of the public school, which is sometimes interpreted much more like "what I think you should be doing instead" (at least in the homeschool cases I'm more familiar with)

What about homeschooling, would that be covered too?

I don't see why not. "Educational expenses" could be tuition or it could be textbooks & lab materials.

And if some sort of vouchers are offered the government schools will be pressured to compete which private schools, which sounds good, except for the fact that the way government competes is through force: by making voucher paid education as bad as public school education.

Granted, and I think this is your strongest argument, the "perfect" policy can't get enacted because of political opposition that screws it up worse than it was before. One truth that is always forgotten by policy wonks is that policy is inseparable from politics. You *can't* build your perfect system because other political players and interests are going to try to build *their* perfect system at cross purposes to yours. To various other policy wonks and academics "perfect" is the system /they/ designed, to politicians its the one they control and can both take credit for but also aren't responsible for if it fails, to parents the *perfect* system will all too often be the one that babysits their children so they have time to pursue their own interests, the union's vision of "perfect" is going to involve a cushy sinecure. Education and the well-being of children will often by a secondary concern to any or all these groups as they seek to influence policy to achieve their own desired result. Sure, they all *think* quite sincerely that the system that best address their concerns ALSO by felicitous happenstance perfectly coincides with what's best for the kids. But that is generally just a self-serving delusion. For instance, there's research that suggests that starting institutional schooling at the youngest ages is actually detrimental in the long run & that starting formal education later than we currently do produces the optimal result (as far as actual education is concerned). BUT, we'll continue pushing younger and younger kids into institutional education under the pretense that it's for their benefit when the more obvious beneficiaries are parents (who get free daycare) and to teachers (who get more jobs).

Of course we already have such a system, a one-size-fits-all monopoly designed by a committee for whom education was often not even a secondary concern after everyone else's REAL primary concerns were addressed (though it got ALL the lip service).

Comment Re:Simple answer (Score 1) 1322

As a libertarian I ask you to please reconsider school vouchers as a good idea. The government already has it's hooks into private schools via the compulsory education laws and people are already used to receiving education services from the government & aren't going to give that up. The situation now is about as bad as it can be from a libertarian perspective. The vast majority of citizens are being educated in government schools with ALL the negatives that entails. Moving a more significant proportion of the population from government schools to private schools even at the cost of accepting another government hook into those private schools can only be a good thing.

That said, the nature of the government hook into private schools is a serious concern. I think the legislation enabling vouchers would have to be (but can be) carefully crafted to minimize further government control in private education. Making the voucher a refundable tax credit to the parent for educational expenses rather than an actual voucher would seem to be the option that affords government the least control.

Now, such a system of government transfer payments for education certainly isn't one that a libertarian would have designed from scratch. But, we aren't designing the system from scratch, we're reforming an existing system in which education is performed directly by the government itself. We won't be able to get out of that mess without some kind of transition to broad based private education & something like vouchers is the only way to get there from where we are now.

Comment Re:Conclusion not what you expect (Score 1) 136

It should be possible to encourage innovation, which is a good thing, without trying to set up monopolies, which are bad. Possibly worse, these are not natural monopolies which may need government intervention to break, but near impossible to define and enforce artificial ones that only function with lots of government intervention. Republicans want small government, it's said? Why not close the patent office, and get out of the intellectual property biz? Stop interfering with inventors!

Let me preface my post to note this. I'm being a devil's advocate and making a case I'm not 100% convinced of myself, but I think it's worth thinking through both sides of the argument. There's a lot of groupthink here on the issue if IP and when I find myself in such a group a distrust of unexamined shared assumptions (or just being a jerk) compels me to take up the other side of the argument. Hopefully my contrariness either makes people either sharpen their arguments so they're more sure of their own thinking because they've been forced to think through all the counter-arguments OR it makes them just a little less sure of themselves because they haven't done so. I'm just constitutionally uncomfortable with people being so sure of their opinions because I'm never that sure of my own.

That said: the argument here is that there are natural monopolies and patents are the government intervention used to break them up. If I invent a new widget I have a monopoly on that widget for as long as I keep the secrets of it's manufacturing. The Zildjian company for instance has successfully maintained the metallurgical secrets behind the manufacturing of their cymbals since 1623 and has converted that secret invention into a monopoly that persisted until a family squabble resulted in a brother who knew the secrets leaving and founding his own company (Sabian) in 1980 (so now there's a duopoly). The problem with such natural monopolies is that they rely on keeping scientific and technical advances secret which in the long run is bad for the scientific and technological advancement of society as a whole. It's often bad for the inventor themselves at well, if the secret gets out they lose their advantage to competitors who can undercut them because they don't have the overhead of research. So the government intervention to break the natural monopolies and encourage the sharing of technological advances is a deal with the inventor that can be stated like this: "Trade your fragile natural monopoly based on keeping knowledge secret for a temporary artificial monopoly based on publicizing knowledge".

In most cases it may be impossible for an inventor to capitalize on an invention while also keeping it secret so they're in the same boat as the inventor who's secret gets out above: undercut by competitors who don't have the overhead of having done the research. The argument in such a case has less to do with monopolies but simple fairness to the inventor. By their intellectual effort they've invented something but it's almost guaranteed that without some legal consideration someone other than themselves will profit by it, this is a pretty serious disincentive to bother with inventing in the first place. Sure, plenty of people will still do so anyway for the sheer joy of invention, but it still violates some sense of fair play when Joe Nobody spends a lifetime in his garage inventing something and the moment he figures it out some big business comes along and uses it freely without compensating him at all.

History contains plenty of examples of each problem patents are an attempt to resolve: inventions that were kept secret for the sake of maintaining a competitive advantage and were lost when the inventor died. And, more commonly inventors who revolutionized industries and whose inventions were responsible for vast fortunes being made... by competitors who could undercut them because they didn't have to recoup development costs.

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Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov